Enterprise Miramichi Launches Forestry and Metal Manufacturing Initiative
A highly focused and dedicated strategy for the future is unfolding in the Miramichi region, driven by private industry and the new Forestry and Metal Manufacturing Committee of Enterprise Miramichi.
At a recent news conference to announce the committee, Chair Doug Prebble said the Miramichi economy isn’t moving in the preferred direction and the area needs a new development approach if it is to achieve the jobs and income needed to maintain the region’s tax base and social service infrastructure.
“The region needs a different approach and with this cluster committee, we have managed to join forces with all the small and large players in the forestry and manufacturing sectors of the area,” he said.
A recent consultant’s report recognised that the developmental aspirations of the region are not likely to be addressed unless the Miramichi can find the means to develop companies in the areas of value-added processing and manufacturing. Prebble said they must have the capabilities and willingness to sell into the export market and to carry other companies along with them.
The report determined that to establish more companies with the strength and capability to participate in export markets would require development of “clustering” strategies and a much higher degree of business networking. He said the two sectors in the Miramichi that best fit into a concentration of companies are forestry and metal manufacturing.
The clustering concept is not new and has worked well in other communities. Clusters are best described as geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, like a network of similar and complementary businesses that compete but also co-operate with one another. They often share the same customers, infrastructures, work force, services and suppliers.
“They have similar needs, business issues and goals,” Prebble said. “Establishing the new Forestry and Mining Industry Cluster Committee has been a process of engaging and getting buy-in from the stakeholders. We believe strongly that the whole exercise must be led by the business community itself — industry working together for common goals.”
Enterprise Miramichi Executive Director, Daryl Black, said the cluster concept didn’t just happen, it was part of a greater strategic plan created by the board of directors of Enterprise Miramichi that has evolved over the past three years.
“We have had a great number of people from industry and support from city representatives working on developing new strategies for economic development,” he said. “We believe the plan, although aggressive, is realistic and will guide the region’s economy over the next three years.”
He said the plan represents the efforts and contributions of more than 200 business leaders and citizens who volunteered many hours as members of the Advisory Forum and Sector Task Groups of Enterprise Miramichi.
“This process has empowered the region and its communities to set priorities for future economic activities,” Black said.
Prebble said the committee hopes to see the creation of new companies as well as support those already operating in the area. He said it is hoped the committee work can expand outside the Miramichi area to include parts of the Acadian Peninsula as well as Bathurst to attract new technology and knowledge-based investments.
As well, the committee intends to target finance and investment in the public and private sector, identify opportunities for research and development, develop and promote e-business strategies, and identify new export markets and overseas investment opportunities.
Gordie Lavoie, vice-president of Sunny Corner Enterprises, represents the metal manufacturing sector on the committee. He said the next step is to establish several sub-committees, which will individually look at separate areas of challenges. These include primary resources, human resources, cost competitiveness, markets and marketing.
“We have selected people with expertise and interest in these specific areas,” Lavoie said. “We feel with this concentration and focus we can look at all the issues and challenges and ways to best achieve both short-term and long-term results. By establishing these sub-committees, we feel the issues will be in more manageable chunks, and we will be better able to choose the priorities for action.”
The committee admits the whole process is an ambitious one, but the benefits can be huge.
“There is still a lot of work to be completed, but at least now we have the undivided attention of industry,” Black said. “We have created clusters that will serve as a catalyst for future economic development in our region. We believe strongly in the concept.”